*** many thanks to Piers Constable for this blog post ***
When Roy told me early one morning after a masters swim set that TriDubai were running a training camp at BlackRock Ski Lodge in the French Alps, it took me all of five minutes to sign up. Over the past few years I have spent many happy hours riding up famous Tour de France cols in the Haute Savoie, and earlier this year had a memorable few days skiing the Chamonix back country with Lizzy and Beej Mercer, the owners of BlackRock and the hosts for the training week. This was one camp I did not want to miss!
The seven camp participants were an eclectic bunch - all had connections to Dubai but some were now living in Europe. There was also a good mix of abilities and experience - some were racing Ironman and 70.3 this summer and others were looking to take the next step up from short course racing. We were extremely fortunate to have the knowledge of coach Garth Fox to tap into - as the week progressed it was clear that Garth was a genuine leader in sports science, nutrition, and triathlon-specific performance coaching.
We had been sent a rough itinerary a few weeks prior to the camp, however this was very weather dependent and totally flexible given the preferences of the campers. The main aims were to swim bike and run lots, and soak up as much knowledge from Garth as possible.
Each day began with a large, healthy breakfast to give us the energy for the work ahead. Food was a focal point of the week, with most of us burning an extra 3000-4000 calories each day just from the exercise. With an attention to detail typical of the whole camp, BlackRock had worked closely with coach Garth and chef Emma to put together an endurance-athlete specific menu each day - lots of energy rich food with masses of fruit and veggies. All the athletes ate a ridiculous amount each day - but we were all amazed to find we had lost significant percentages of body fat when Garth measured us again at the end of the week.
Each day's activity was different. Generally we agreed a plan that everyone was happy with at dinner the previous evening, and this would be tinkered with at breakfast depending on the weather and how people were feeling. The day was usually centred around the bike, with swim and run added in according to athlete preference. My weekly stats were 9k swim (two pool and two lake sessions), 420k bike (six rides) and 54k run (six runs). Although this was around 28 hours across the week - roughly double my normal training volume - I didn't really ever feel that tired given we had so much more time to rest and recover than we get when we try to fit in our training around work and family. On top of all this BlackRock had laid on the services each afternoon of local elite age-group triathlete turned sports masseur turned osteopath Carlton. Combining a post-ride rub down with a chill out in the hot tub meant that we were all primed and ready to go the next day.
Highlights of the week for me were the ascents of the Col des Aravis and Col de Romme (the latter 8k at 8 per cent); the impossibly long, steep and cold ride above the snow-line to Lac d'Emosson at 2000m; the whole team swimming in a super-efficient pack in Lac de Passy (13 degrees water temperature!); and bumping into ultra-marathon running legend Kilian Jornet on a trail run through the forests above Chamonix. But in truth every session was interesting, fun, and challenging - all set in a majestic mountain environment.
As I sit reflecting on my flight back to the sandpit, I'm thinking that I'm a much fitter and knowledgable triathlete than I was a week ago. But more importantly I have been able to spend time with old and new friends doing something I love and for that I feel humbled and privileged.
So thank you Roy and Ian for organising, Lizzy and Beej for hosting, Garth for coaching, Emma for cooking, Carlton for massaging, and Marc, Martin, Paul, Sonja, Gary and Brian for sharing with me. You guys all rock.